Common, Beautiful & Unrecognized

Indigo buntings are sparrow-sized birds that breed across the Central and Eastern U.S. and in parts of the Desert Southwest.  While the female does not stand out from a host of small, brown avian species, the brilliant blue male is hard not to notice; indeed, he makes himself especially conspicuous, singing incessantly from the top of a sapling or hedgerow.

Indigo buntings favor the border of fields and woodlands, where they feast on a wide variety of seeds and insects.  In this respect, like northern cardinals, they have benefited from human settlements, where forests have been opened for agriculture and residential development; indeed, indigo buntings have been spreading northward and westward in recent decades.  Come winter, they migrate to warmer climes; those in the Eastern U.S. head to the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands while those in the Central and Western U.S. winter in Central America.

Unfortunately, most non-birders are unfamiliar with this common and widespread summer resident, mistaking him for just another bluebird or assuming that he is an escaped canary.  Of course, such is true for many other bird species as well, casually lumped together by size, shape or color.  By doing so, humans tend to underestimate the fabulous diversity of nature, even when the evidence is readily evident in their own town or neighborhood.